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This is a book of many facets, some of which may be transparent to a young reader, while still sending their message of courage and self-reliance. On the surface, it's an absorbing science fiction tale with a touch of mystery, as two young people travel back in time to locate and prevent the death of an important ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War. Neighbors by chance and best friends by heart, Michael Banks, an African-American, and Kate Hammond, the girl next door, are caught up in this quest when they are given computer software by Michael's recently-deceased riding instructor.
Baffled by the mysterious reappearance of his dead friend, Michael and Kate load the software and are introduced to Cyber Time Surfers, an organization responsible for repairing anomalies in time. It appears that Michael's great-great-great grandfather, who fought alongside Lafayette, is going to be killed in a trap set for Lafayette by the British. If John Banks dies, Michael and his entire family will cease to exist. Kate and Michael's mission: save John Banks and General Lafayette from the trap!
This is a fast-paced, very readable book that would appeal to any child over ten. It's a great story, filled with high adventure, futuristic science, hair-raising escapes and brave deeds, but there are deeper messages in the tale. Not only does it provide an insight into the Revolutionary War, an important part of American history, it also touches on many of the fears and challenges that face young people. Kate, who is on the swim team at school, is an excellent swimmer but freezes in terror at the start of each meet, failing both her teammates and herself. Michael is devoted to horses and longs for an equestrian career, but his white jhodpurs and red jacket don't go down well with the other black kids at school, after he's spotted by a bully on his way to riding class.
In the process of their adventure, Michael and Kate both discover previously-unfound courage and determination, as they battle the British and the odds in the strange world of Revolutionary America. Their friendship and devotion to each other rings a clear, chiming tone in scene after scene. They struggle together and individually to win through to their goal, and find examples of both courage and honor in the actions of the young Lafayette and brave John Banks. There are lessons here; in self-respect, honor, friendship and courage.